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Wednesday, 11 July 2018

#StillOurBaby Henry.

This week's #StillOurBaby is Georgia and Henry's story. Georgia discusses neonatal death and the aftermath of parenting a child that has died. This is so beautifully written, a real raw, honest account of life after loss. Please note this post contains images of precious Henry.


I dedicate this to Henry, Jonah and every child ever missing from their parents' arms. 

Hi all, it's a real privilege to be included in the #StillOurBaby series. My experience of infant loss was the sudden and unexpected early neonatal death of my son Henry. I could easily talk about Henry all day so when Katie gave me the opportunity to tell his story I jumped at it. 
 On the 11th October 2017 after a quick, straightforward labour my husband and I welcomed our first child into the world. Henry was born calm, alert and apparently healthy. We were told we could take him home that same evening, our future looked bright. We had two normal hours together as a family of three when we noticed that Henry had became floppy, unresponsive and had stopped breathing. An emergency alarm sounded, a crash team filled the room and medics worked for over 30 minutes trying to save our son's life. As I sat amongst the commotion in that room a stone cold certainty came to me, life was never going to be the same again. A doctor spoke to us, they'd tried everything, there was nothing else they could do and they were going to stop resuscitation. Just like that the perfect little human I had birthed only hours before and who I loved more than anyone else the world was gone. Our son had died. 

It felt like a hole had opened up beneath me and I was free falling into a void. There really are no words to describe the pain of losing a child, it is utterly devastating. 
We spent that night in the hospital's bereavement suite. My husband's parents arrived in the early hours and sat vigil while we slept, my mum arrived a few hours later. We introduced Henry to his grandparents, held him, took his hand and foot prints, kissed him, told him we loved him and less than 24 hours after he was born had to give him to a stranger to be taken to a hospital in another city for his coroner ordered post-mortem. When he left that room it felt like all the colour left with him. Our bright future was suddenly dark. There was surely no way forward from this. 

Soon after Henry went away I developed sepsis and became quite ill. I didn't care. I saw this illness as a physical manifestation of the pain I felt inside and welcomed the softening of reality and my escape into delirium as my body fought the infection. I was in hospital for nine days, my husband by my side the whole time “we're going to get through this, for Henry” he'd tell me over and over again. His presence got me through. I thought about those two precious hours when our family had been complete. I held onto the memory of my husband holding our newborn son and the feeling that my heart would burst with love, remembered thinking as I'd looked at the two of them 'they are my world, my reason to be' and with that memory I felt a fire kindling in my soul. Things weren't going to be how we'd planned but they'd still be. I would survive this, if not for myself then for them. 

And so it began, my journey into motherhood. One I hadn't chosen and couldn't change. Those early days were incredibly dark. Lowering my son's coffin into a hole in the ground went against every maternal fibre in my body, how could I leave my son here? It was just all so wrong, it should have been him burying me in 50 or 60 years time. I wanted to go down there, scoop him up and never let him go. 

The parental instinct to protect a child doesn't die when they do and I still feel the need to mother my son, for me this means ensuring he is remembered. I fear that because Henry's life was short  he will be forgotten. I fear that the significance of his loss will not be acknowledged or understood. The grief of a baby isn't just for the life lost but the life not lived, Henry will be missing from every family meal, holiday and celebration forever, it is a grief that will last a lifetime. We live in a society that avoids difficult conversations and the death of a baby is one of the most difficult. People are unsure what to say or fear they'll hurt a parent by mentioning their dead child but as a parent desperate to talk about my child it hurts more when he's not acknowledged. By chance soon after Henry died I came across a community of bereaved parents openly talking about child loss on Instagram. As I read their experiences of grief and life after loss I recognised my own feelings. I started sharing Henry with them, his life and death, my highs, lows and strange moments in grief. I connected with mums and dads who had lost children at all stages of pregnancy and beyond, no two stories were the same but we were united by the shared experience of this alternative parenthood. In February I was invited to attend a bereavement care and reducing stillbirth conference. Listening to other parents talk about the work being done to break the taboo surrounding stillbirth and infant death was empowering and fed the fire in my soul. I came away from that day feeling inspired, determined to add my voice to those already talking and in March started blogging about my experience, sharing it for the first time with people outside the baby loss community. It's still early days for the blog but the response so far has been amazing. I hope it helps other parents feel less alone in their grief and provides advice to anyone supporting someone during the death of a child. I hope by adding my voice to those already talking about baby loss and grief the conversations will continue to grow, they're difficult conversation to have but it's important that we do. 

I'm now seven months into my parenting journey. Henry's post-mortem results came back with no known cause of death so I have no answers about why my seemingly healthy, full term baby died. An inquest into his death has been opened which is expected to take place later this year. My husband and I are slowly finding our new normal as we learn to parent our missing child. I don't know what the future will bring but I know my love for Henry will never dim and I'll never stop talking about him, the boy who made me a mother and lit the fire in my soul. Henry this is all for you darling. 
_abcdefgeorg on Instagram 

Thank you again to Georgia for sharing Henry and life after loss. I am honoured to be able to share your story in the #StillOurBaby series. 

Katie xx

Monday, 2 July 2018

Dear Jonathan.

Dear Jonathan,

I will never forget the look on your face when you walked into the bathroom that evening. The toilet already covered in blood but you somehow held it together and called an ambulance. You spent 45 minutes calmly talking to the lady and updating her. You arranged someone to sit with Violet and kept your cool, despite being terrified. You continued to try and make me smile, even when being rushed to hospital in the ambulance - both of us knowing this wasn't going to have a happy ending.

I will never forget waking up after surgery and seeing the relief on your face but also the fear, knowing what I was about to be told. You stayed with me every step of the way and I will be forever thankful that I was never alone in this.

You somehow organised child care for V, when I couldn't even string a sentence together. You made sure Jonah was always with you or with me. You got our families here and made sure everyone knew what had happened so I wouldn't be overwhelmed. Despite our world falling apart, you still managed to keep this family unit together. 

Thank you for holding me at 4am, when I just couldn't sleep or hold it together anymore. Thank you for always wiping my tears and thank you for giving me the space I need to grieve. Thank you for just knowing when I'm having a bad day, even without me saying a word. Thank you for crying with me and for not being afraid to talk about our baby boy with anyone that will listen. But most of all, thank you for loving me even though I am no longer the person I was when we met. 

This wasn't the life we had planned but it is our life. You are my rock, my soul mate and my best friend. You are the most incredible Daddy to Violet and to Jonah. And I know that you would do anything to make this better. 

I love you always and forever,

Katie xx


Wednesday, 27 June 2018

#StillOurBaby Eli.

This week's #StillOurBaby comes from Stacy and her little boy Eli. This post contains photos of beautiful Eli. 


We found out I was pregnant at exactly four weeks. We were both so excited, scared and nervous of course but ultimately happier than ever. Looking back now I say blissfully ignorant. At six weeks we saw a tiny little heartbeat after a bleeding scare and from that moment, I was in love. That natural instinct to love and protect was there from the very beginning. My first trimester was terrible, I suffered terribly with nausea and sickness but it was all working towards the end point of our baby so worth every second, although I had to remind myself of that several times a day!

Our 12 week scan went by without any problems and we announced our happy news via Facebook, My sickness and nausea started to ease off as I headed into the second trimester and we began buying a few little bits and pieces. Our 20 week scan we were told everything looked good and we had a very healthy baby boy growing away as he should be. We began thinking of names, trying to agree was really hard but we were not concerned as we had plenty of time to make a final decision. Eli was a firm favourite for us both from the beginning.

At 23 weeks 2 days pregnant I had some period type pain, I assumed it was ligament pain and took some paracetamol and carried on with my day. I had a Doppler and listened to our boy’s heartbeat that night, it was as strong as normal and he was doing his usual somersaults so I had no reason to be concerned in my mind. I woke up in the night with some strong pain again but this quickly subsided and I went back to sleep. When the pain was still happening the next day I phoned the on call midwife who said I needed to get checked out, although they didn’t think it was anything to worry about.

At around midday I headed to the hospital, my partner and I even joked in the car park that they were going to see me and tell me to piss off home and get on with being pregnant. We sit waiting for about half an hour to be seen and are eventually put on a bay with three other pregnant women.

They listened to his heartbeat which was fine and strong and then the trainee doctor examined me and took some swabs. He said he thought my cervix was open but no indication as to how much and that he would need to go and get the registrar. At this point I began to panic, the words cervix and open were ringing in my ears. The Registrar arrived and he examined me and again we are told that my cervix is open, but no indication as to how open, he talks about a stitch being possible some times depending on how open the cervix is and that he needs to get the consultant to examine me. At this point I lost my shit and really began to panic, turns out the pains I had been experiencing were actually contractions and I was in labour.

The Consultant came and said she needed to examine me, I asked if I could pop to the loo beforehand and when I came out they had moved us into a side room away from the ward. I knew then that it wasn’t good news. She examined me and while she was doing the examination she asked me about my contractions and the one I was currently having, I said I wasn’t having a contraction at that moment but she could feel it even though I couldn’t. She estimated I was around 8cms dilated already, and she told me that she couldn’t put a stitch in because I was contracting too much and my cervix was already open too far. So they admitted me and put on bed rest and if we made it to Friday without delivering then we would be moved to a hospital in the next County who can deal with very premature babies.

Monday night passed by in a bit of haze of hourly morphine and regular contractions, at one point they were every three minutes apart for quite a long time, but then they would drop back down to 15 mins apart. Tuesday morning I relented and took some codeine and proceeded to then chuck my guts up and was out of it for a couple of hours. They gave me the steroid injections for his lungs. Still no sleep since Saturday night by this point. Tuesday afternoon contractions slowed right down again and I went as long as 40 minutes between each one, I actually thought that we might make it to Friday and that golden signpost of 24 weeks that everyone kept talking about.

Around 6ish they picked right back up again and I couldn’t move for the pain, I was standing up which in hindsight didn’t help. I finally fell asleep for about 45 minutes, only for the battery in the tens machine to stop. My partner had just fallen asleep so I didn’t want to wake him by putting the light on, so off I went to the nurses station for more batteries and morphine. At this point my contractions picked up and were between 2-5 mins apart. About 5am I started on the gas and air, which was great for a while until it made me feel very sick! They moved me up to delivery at 8am, but I had to wait for the consultant to come around before they could make a decision on whether I should be pushing or not, by this point I hadn’t been able to wee for about four hours and I felt like my bladder was going to burst. The consultant came around at 9.45, she asked what position the baby was in, and no one had a clue as I hadn’t been scanned the whole time I was there. They quickly scanned me and it turned out he was already in the birth canal (hence not being able to pee due to the pressure) and my bladder was taking up most of the screen. They gave me magnesium sulphate (I think, I can’t remember the name) via cannula to protect the baby’s head. This took ten minutes to put in and it feels like your body is on fire from the inside out. Once that was in I started pushing. After about 20 mins of pushing my waters went and I again lost my shit and announced I couldn’t do it any more but my mum, partner and the midwife spurred me on, 10 Minutes later Eli was born at 11.33am.

He was taken and wrapped in plastic and put on the neonatal incubator where there were several doctors and nurses waiting. They attempted to give him oxygen but his heart rate kept dropping and after five long agonising minutes in which I allowed myself to believe he was going to make it, the consultant told us they could go no further. My heart broke as we held our darling boy until he peacefully passed away.

I think this is by far the hardest thing I’ll ever have to write and post. I feel that there isn’t a lot out there in terms of people’s raw experiences that bring them to this point and that’s why barring a few graphic details I have tried to write it all down here. This was the worst moment of my life, that doesn’t mean I want to forget or pretend it didn’t happen. I want to talk about it. I want Eli’s only living moments on this earth to be remembered. I want people to feel like it is ok to talk about their baby loss in all it’s heartbreaking, earth shattering, gory detail. 


Thank you so much Stacy, for writing and sharing Eli's story. Such a honest and raw post. You can find Stacy on Instagram @StacyIqbal. 

If you'd like to be a part of the #StillOurBaby series, please get in touch. 

Katie xx
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